Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 9 News List

European Union needs action, not abstract policies

The more embedded democracy is in EU countries, the more skeptical citizens are about the new constitutional treaty

By Ralf Dahrendorf

All this suggests conclusions that give pause for thought. It appears that in the absence of substantive policy projects, the EU has turned inward, producing a document that claims to be far more than it actually is. Where people have a say, they will express considerable doubts, as they did in the recent European elections. Indeed, the older and more embedded democracy is in European countries, the more skeptical their citizens are toward the claims of the constitutional treaty. Thus, the gap between visions of Europe and the reality of the EU is growing.

What is to be done if one believes in the real Europe and its common purposes? The first requirement is to reduce the temperature of the debate about the treaty. Unsustainable claims should not be made for it. The enlarged Europe can survive without it.

The second requirement is to give more prominence to the real Europe. The single market is far from complete. There are major unresolved issues in the "near-abroad" of the enlarged union, in Eastern Europe, and in the Balkans. In short, the order of the day should be less abstract worry about Europe's identity and more practical action to define it in deeds, not symbols.

Ralf Dahrendorf, author and former European commissioner from Germany, is a member of the British House of Lords, a former rector of the London School of Economics and a former warden of St. Antony's College, Oxford.

Copyright: Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences

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